This story, with a nod to Charles Dickens, is a story of two transmissions: a six-speed manual and a ten-speed automatic. They are both available in the 10 Best-winning Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing. As we’re constantly promoting the fun of shifting your own gears – engaging gears – and complaining about cars that should have manuals but don’t, this particular sports sedan provided a rare moment of self-reflection.
Are we right in our stubborn belief that, just as clothing makes the man or woman, a manual transmission makes the car? Could an all-round brilliant saloon like the CT4-V Blackwing be nearly as lust-worthy with an automatic as it is with a do-it-yourself gearbox? We ordered an automatic CT4-V Blackwing to explore this tricky emotional conundrum.
We already know the manual CT4-V Blackwing as an old friend; we got one for a long-term test and put over 10,000 miles on it. That’s a lot of shifting and grabbing, and we don’t regret it. The Blackwing’s six-speed manual transmission is one of the best, reminiscent of the sweet units that have been bolted into various BMW 3 Series models over the years. The Caddy’s gearbox has the same direct, well-oiled feel and solid shift mechanism that make it a pleasure to row. Clutch pedal engagement is intuitive and perfectly weighted. And, of course, the manual transmission is at work in one of the world’s best sports sedans.
Same for the Blackwing automatic. The CT4-V Blackwing is, apart from its 10-speed automatic gearbox, virtually identical to the manual model. It has the same 3.6 liter twin-turbocharged V-6 under the hood that produces 472 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. For the record, manual transmission Blackwings get lightweight titanium connecting rods to help their V-6s rev faster, but it’s not a difference you’ll feel behind the wheel.
Key performance equipment is otherwise identical, starting with rear-wheel drive (AWD is not available) and including tacky summer tires – 255/35ZR-18 front and 275/35ZR-18 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4Ss – plus large Brembo brakes and adaptive magnetorheological dampers. There are a dizzying array of ways to fine-tune ride, handling and traction control between the four riding modes, two customizable modes and five steps in the Performance Traction Management system. Regardless of the transmission, however, the CT4-V BW is a virtuoso, both on the road and on a racetrack.
Our $84,715 automatic tester had more options than our long-term car. In addition to the $2275 extra for the automatic, getting the car forces an additional $900 for additional driver assistance technology. Our car also had the performance data and VCR setup ($1600) and a technology package that included an air ionizer and head-up display ($725). But the only extra that could potentially affect performance – aside from the automatic, of course – was the Carbon Fiber 1 package ($6150), which slaps a bigger spoiler on the trunk lid and adds a splitter, dive planes and air deflectors on the front wheels. to the facade. This car also had the Carbon Fiber 2 cosmetic package ($4450) that adds carbon rocker panel skirts and a rear extension.
These aerodynamic helpers no doubt increase downforce at higher speeds, but they almost certainly increase drag as well, which we believe was reflected in the performance results. But even with its extra equipment, the 3904-pound automatic car weighed only 25 pounds more than the manual transmission model, meaning weight differences hardly mattered on the test track.
Over the years, our instrumented testing has consistently shown that automatic transmission models almost always outperform their otherwise identical manual transmission siblings. This Blackwing automatic did too, but the gap wasn’t as big as we predicted.
Counterclockwise, the automatic breaks down a time of 4.0 seconds from 100 km / h; the manual hangs at 4.1 seconds. The automatic shoots ahead from there, reaching 100 mph in 9.4 seconds against the manual’s 9.9 seconds. But then the manual begins to close the gap, falling just 0.2 seconds behind the automatic’s 12.4 second quarter-mile time, with both cars hitting an identical 114 mph. At 130 mph, it’s a dead end, with both cars taking 17.2 seconds to get there. That’s probably a result of the added aerodynamic drag from the automatic car working against it as speeds climb into the triple digits. Differences in gear may also have played a role. But the numbers don’t lie: the two transmissions deliver almost identical performance.
There isn’t much of a difference in fuel economy either. Automatic CT4-V Blackwings dial EPA ratings of 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway, while manual transmission cars in both sizes return exactly 1 mile per gallon less. Not that a single mile per gallon matters when you’re driving a 472 horsepower sedan with a manufacturer’s claimed top speed of 189 mph.
Much more important than the miniscule benefits of the automatic in 60 mph acceleration or fuel savings is how it drives. The transmission may have 10 gears, but you’d never know it given how unobtrusively it steps through in normal driving. Fortunately, it never lugs the engine around in the lazy, near-idle zone, and is ready to downshift down several gears instantly, even if you’re halfway on the throttle. Quickly drop your right foot at any speed and the Caddy blasts off; Fast strides on two lanes or whizzing through gaps in traffic is effortless. If you want to play Lewis Hamilton, put the gearbox in manual mode and the 10-speed gearbox responds quickly to the paddles’ calls to shift up and down. It can’t match the lightning-quick shifting speed of the best dual-clutch automatics, but it’s not far off.
In a sense, the automatic expands the already extensive bandwidth of this car. You can be lazy and averse to shifting at city speeds and in the bumper-to-bumper crawl in rush hour, then enjoy gear shifting and paddle shifting if you want to play the hero on the road. The CT4-V Blackwing is so successful it would take a pretty awful automatic to change your mind about its high-wattage brilliance.
But when we got back into our manual transmission, we were quickly reminded of the reason we worship at the Church of the Holy Stick Shift: the connection between driver and car. You can feel the vibrations of the engine through the shift lever. You need to pay more attention to the traffic and anticipate the acceleration you will need next, so that you are more involved in the driving process and have more control. And it gives a great sense of mastery to deftly control a manual transmission, perform well-coordinated upshifts and smooth, rev-matched, heel-and-toe downshifts – without the aid of electronic rev matching. No need to bang gears and try to pull the shift lever out of the floor; you can enjoy manual engagement at any speed.
All this leads to one simple conclusion: we’d still love the CT4-V Blackwing if it only came with an automatic transmission. But we like it better with a manual.
2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, Rear Wheel Drive, 5 Passenger, 4 Door Sedan
Base/as tested: $61,890/$84,715
Options: Carbon Fiber 1 Package (carbon fiber front splitter, wheel guides, dive planes, rear spoiler), $6150; Jet Black leather upholstery with Jet Black accents, $4900; Carbon Fiber 2 Pack (carbon fiber rocker extensions and rear diffuser), $4450; 10-speed automatic transmission, $2275; performance data and VCR, $1600; Driver Assist Package (adaptive cruise control, automatic front and rear emergency braking), $900; Technology Package (air ionizer and head-up display), $725; Argent Silver Metallic paint, $625; 18-inch aluminum wheels with satin graphite finish, $600; Climate package (heated and ventilated front seats with massage, heated steering wheel) $600
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 218 inches33564cm3
Power: 472 hp @ 5750 rpm
Torque: 445 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Suspension, front/rear: strut/multilink
Brakes, front/rear: 15.0″ vented disc/13.4″ vented disc
Tyres: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S
F: 255/35ZR-18 (94Y) TPC spec 3164
R: 275/35ZR-18 (99Y) TPC spec 3165
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 187.6 inches
Width: 71.5 inches
Height: 56.0 inches
Passenger volume: 90 ft3
Trunk volume: 11 ft3
Empty weight: 3904 lb
CD TEST RESULTS
100 km/h: 4.0 sec
100 mph: 9.4 seconds
1/4 mile: 12.4 sec @ 114 mph
210 km/h: 17.2 sec
The above results omit a 1 foot rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling start, 5-60 mph: 4.4 sec
Top gear, 30-50 mph: 2.2 sec
Top gear, 50-70 mph: 2.6 sec
Top speed (mfr claim): 189 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 158 ft
Braking, 100-0 mph: 303 ft
Handling, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.04 g
CD FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 15 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 25 mpg
75 mph highway range: 430 miles
EPA FUEL CONSUMPTION
Combined/city/highway: 19/16/24 mpg
CD TESTING EXPLAINED
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